New home septic tank
May 11, 2005 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about buying a house that's out in the country a little bit. It's on a septic system. It's a new construction that the contractor built and is living in while he builds the one next to it. The septic system is reported to be a "Low Pressure Drip System for Residential Sewers" made by Murdon. Is this good/bad/potentially costly?

Also, the seller's disclosure form, instead of having the "Septic" box checked for sewage has a box checked called "tanks/laterals/drain fields". I'd also love to know what this means and how it relates to a regular septic system.

Google seems to have nothing to say about such a system, nor the Murdon corporation, so I'm wondering what's up.
posted by ontic to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Best answer: The absolute best book to learn about septic stuff is The Septic System Owners Manual by Lloyd Kahn. It's sort of like the old VW repair books, cartoony and chatty while at the same time being comprehensive and understandable. You probably have a leaching field which means that the effluvia goes out into the yard through long tubes that have holes in them where the stuff gradually permeates into the ground over a large area. There is no tank. What I understand about these systems [mostly from reading this book] is that they usually work fine, until they don't. Newer systems are likely to be okay and there are things you can do to maintain the systems [see link above]. Your best bet, naturally, is to ask the contractor for specifics, but it doesn't seem too out of the ordinary to me.
posted by jessamyn at 6:58 PM on May 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, Jessamyn. I suppose I just need to read the book for this answer then, but in such a system where are the bacteria if there is no tank?

Is it literally raw sewage simply being dispersed into my backyard over a wide area?
posted by ontic at 7:11 PM on May 11, 2005

You know, I might be wrong about this, or misremembering. My current house has a tank and leaching fields and the one I was growing up in, I think, mainly had a tank. Leaching fields are part of any normal system though it may be that there is some differentiation between what your owner calls a "tank" and what a septic tank technically is -- possibly it's smaller, or not up to code in some way. My guess is they couldn't have built it with non-standard septic if it's a new building, code is pretty tetchy about waste disposal. Here are two more septic things I know that are useful: don't use a garbage disposal with your septic system, and get it pumped regularly even if they tell you that you don't need to.
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 PM on May 11, 2005

Best answer: In new construction, there's gotta be a tank. That's where the solids settle out. The leach lines drain off the top of the tank into the leach field. Eventually, the tank will fill up with solids; sooner if the bacteria are sluggish, later if they're on the job. Then you pay a couple hundred to have the tank pumped (think Winston on Red Green) or get a farmer with a honey wagon to help you out.

What you decribe sounds like a normal, unpressurized septic system (if there's such thing as a pressurized septic system, I've never heard of it, but IANAP). Possible associated expenses are the pumping mentioned above and, eventually, a new leach system if your leach field becomes saturated or clogged. That's expensive, since it involves digging up your yard and laying new drainage tile. If you treat your septic system with respect, though--read the owner's manual jessamyn suggests--you'll probably never have that expense unless you're cursed with poor soil conditions in the first place.

If the system is properly designed, you won't hurt it by waiting til the tank fills to pump it. BUT you might hurt yourself. The first two times our tank filled up were in the dead of late winter, and the ground was frozen solid so the tank was inaccessible. Don't ask what we did til the ground thawed. (In my defense, it filled up much more quickly the second time, taking me by surprise. Must have been because of the new TP users in the house coming online in a big way.) Lesson: Extend the cleanout to within a few inches of the surface, and check your levels regularly with a long stick dedicated to this job.

If you have questions about local conditions, try asking your county sanitarian if you have one.

In rural areas, older systems are often tankless, but that's just nasty. It means that raw sewage is coming out into the light of day somewhere: an irrigation ditch, a field, a creek.
posted by bricoleur at 1:25 AM on May 12, 2005

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